Trump’s on a hot streak: Court rul­ings, va­cancy, sum­mit plan

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Ken Thomas and Cather­ine Lucey

WASH­ING­TON » A Supreme Court va­cancy just fell in his lap, of­fer­ing a chance to shape the court for decades. The cur­rent court handed him two fa­vor­able rul­ings in a sin­gle week. And there’s a Rus­sia sum­mit on the hori­zon, promis­ing head­lines for a week or more. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is en­joy­ing quite a hot streak.

Some of the good news is not of his mak­ing. Still, a se­ries of wel­come events has given the pres­i­dent a re­prieve from im­ages of mi­grant chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies at the bor­der, as well as neg­a­tive head­lines about ad­min­is­tra­tive chaos im­ple­ment­ing his hard­line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

Trump sought to keep the good vibes go­ing Fri­day with an event mark­ing the six-month an­niver­sary of his tax cuts.

“We are bring­ing back our beau­ti­ful Amer­i­can dreams,” Trump de­clared, as he used a cel­e­bra­tory East Room event with top aides and busi­ness own­ers to show­case the $1.5 tril­lion tax pack­age passed last De­cem­ber.

He de­clared re­cent growth an “eco­nomic mir­a­cle,” though there’s credit to be shared: Lower unem­ploy­ment, fewer claims for job­less ben­e­fits and many other pos­i­tive eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors re­flect the slow and steady nine-year re­cov­ery that be­gan un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Trump’s tax cuts will add a hefty dose of debt­fi­nanced stim­u­lus to the econ­omy. Govern­ment agen­cies and out­side an­a­lysts es­ti­mate the tax cuts will tem­po­rar­ily boost growth in 2018 and 2019, then fade as the na­tional debt mounts.

Look­ing ahead, Trump is ex­pected to an­nounce his nom­i­nee to fill a va­cancy on the Supreme Court and hold a highly an­tic­i­pated sit-down with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin — both events he will treat with his cus­tom­ary flair for build­ing sus­pense. His re­cent sum­mit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un won him buck­ets of TV cov­er­age high­light­ing his stature on the world stage.

Trump rel­ished his mo­ment speak­ing to re­porters on Air Force One Fri­day evening. Of the Supreme Court open­ing, he said: “It is ex­cit­ing though, right? From day one, I’ve heard out­side of war and peace, of course, the most im­por­tant de­ci­sion you make is the se­lec­tion of a Supreme Court judge — if you get it.”

Dur­ing his tu­mul­tuous pres­i­dency, Trump has had plenty of frus­tra­tions and set­backs. He watched his hoped-for re­peal of the Oba­macare health care law go down to de­feat, ac­knowl­edged his lawyer’s pay­ments to porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her al­le­ga­tions of an af­fair — which he de­nied — and grap­pled with the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s role in the 2016 elec­tion. But he has con­sis­tently main­tained back­ing from bedrock sup­port­ers.

Over­all, 41 per­cent of Amer­i­cans ap­prove of the job Trump is do­ing as pres­i­dent, while 57 per­cent dis­ap­prove, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Associated PressNORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search sur­vey. That rat­ing has held steady since March.

Still, Jon Meacham, a pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian, said a les­son of the past 18 months is that Trump has a ten­dency “to create a dis­tract­ing drama of his own mak­ing that tends to dis­tract and de­tract from what we con­sider typ­i­cal po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum.” He said the com­ing weeks will pose “an in­ter­est­ing test of whether there’s enough dis­ci­pline to go from strength to strength.”

In Wisconsin this week, Trump said: “We’re pass­ing so much. Look at what’s hap­pen­ing with our Supreme Court. Look at the vic­to­ries we’ve had. Look at the vic­to­ries we’ve had.”

Fill­ing a Supreme Court va­cancy is a wel­come op­por­tu­nity for any pres­i­dent. The re­tire­ment of Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy gives Trump the abil­ity to lock in a con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity that could en­dure long after his pres­i­dency has ended.

After Trump’s sweep­ing tax over­haul, his suc­cess­ful nom­i­na­tion of Jus­tice Neil Gor­such to the court last year was his most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment, af­firm­ing the uni­fy­ing role that Supreme Court pol­i­tics have played for Repub­li­cans. Trump can thank Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky for keep­ing the court seat open dur­ing the last year of Obama’s pres­i­dency.

He also ben­e­fits from good tim­ing in Kennedy’s de­ci­sion to step down at this mo­ment. If Kennedy had stayed for an­other term, Trump would have had a harder time us­ing the is­sue to fire up his base of con­ser­va­tives in the midterm elec­tions.

With Gor­such in place, the high court has been par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous to Trump’s causes of late. Just this week, the jus­tices up­held his travel ban on vis­i­tors from sev­eral ma­jor­ity Mus­lim coun­tries and fol­lowed that up with a rul­ing on union fees that was long sought by con­ser­va­tives.

In re­cent weeks, the pres­i­dent also has stoked a con­tentious trade di­a­logue with U.S. al­lies at the Group of Seven sum­mit in Que­bec and pushed ahead with plans to im­pose steep tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods.

For­mer White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non sums it up as a ban­ner time for the pres­i­dent’s agenda: “In past two weeks the G-7, the eco­nomic con­fronta­tion with China, the travel ban, the bor­der and the Supreme Court va­cancy, among other events, crys­tal­ize the vi­tal and his­toric na­ture of Trump’s pres­i­dency.”

Trump’s po­lit­i­cal for­tunes also im­proved this week with a se­ries of pri­mary elec­tions. He de­cided to go all-in for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, one of his ear­li­est sup­port­ers, hold­ing a rally in the state just hours be­fore a tight runoff elec­tion. After Trump’s rally, McMaster cruised to vic­tory.

And Trump picked up a win of sorts in a con­gres­sional dis­trict in his hometown of New York. Rep. Joe Crow­ley, a mem­ber of the House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship team viewed as a po­ten­tial House speaker, was de­feated in his pri­mary cam­paign by 28-year-old Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, a for­mer Bernie San­ders cam­paign or­ga­nizer.

The sud­den rise of Oca­sio-Cortez helps Trump paint Democrats with a broad brush, iden­ti­fy­ing them as sup­port­ers of so­cial­ist health care and eco­nomic poli­cies.

There are still plenty of storm clouds on his hori­zon. The Rus­sia probe con­tin­ues, and there could be fur­ther fall­out on im­mi­gra­tion. Fi­nan­cial mar­kets, jit­tery over tar­iffs and health care pre­mi­ums, could de­cline be­fore the elec­tion.

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